The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost.
· The podcast of this service can be accessed on Podcast page of the website or by clicking HERE.
· A video of today’s service is posted on Video page of the website early on Sunday afternoon - or you can access it by clicking HERE.
· Harvest will be held next Sunday, 27th September in both Yetholm (10am) and Morebattle (11.15). Donations to the Food Bank will be gratefully received.
· Dorothy Baird will be cremated on Wednesday, 23rd September at 11am. You can access HERE it on with username Paha2593 and password 746453.
· There will be an ecumenical drive-in service near St Boswells on 27th September at 3pm. Details can be had at: www.bordersdrivein.co.uk
· Yetholm Kirk is open for private prayer every Wednesday between 10.00 and 12 noon. Colin will be there, if anyone needs to see him.
· We join with all the other denominations in Scotland to light a candle at 7pm.
· Our singing on the podcast is led by Heather and Gordon
Call to Worship
The Lord our God is great and to be highly praised.
We come to worship.
The Lord our God is great beyond our understanding.
We come to worship.
The Lord our God is loving and full of mercy.
We come to worship.
Hymn 457 – All Hail the power of Jesus’s name (1,3)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Loving God, compassionate Son, healing Spirit,
You meet us in so many places and in so many different ways,
when our need is deep and we long for you,
and when we think we can manage on our own.
You draw near to us in kindness,
regardless of our state or condition.
You turn weeping into laughter, sorrow into joy, death into life.
You speak a word of challenge and a word of comfort
to draw us to you.
In gratitude, we come before you this day,
to seek your word for us,
and to enjoy your gift of life in its fullness.
Receive our praise and our prayers this day
offered in the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God, you are the giver of all good gifts,
yet we confess that our own generosity is limited.
We share what we have, but often reluctantly.
We compare ourselves to others
and focus on what they have that we lack.
We fear running short of things
rather than trusting your attention to our needs.
Forgive us our worries about tomorrow
and give us generous hearts that trust in you.
The mercy of our God is from everlasting to everlasting. Friends, hear and believe the good news of the Gospel. In Jesus Christ, God’s generous love
reaches out to embrace us. In Christ, we are forgiven and set free to begin again. Thanks be to God!
Readings: Philippians 1: 21-30
Matthew 20: 1-16
Hymn 159 – Lord, for the years
Faithful God, God of heaven and earth, companion in life, Spirit of truth; to Jesus alone, in whom all power and authority in heaven and on earth is given, we turn our eyes and lift our hearts. Help us to serve you and you alone. Amen
All of us like a story, and especially if there is something in it that makes us think. Jesus was the master storyteller, and his parables have spoken to people down the centuries. I wonder what your favourite parable would be? Maybe it is the Good Samaritan, where it is the outsider who helps the person who has been beaten up. We associate with him and are left with a good feeling. Or maybe it is the Prodigal Son, where the young man has squandered everything, but then comes to his senses and goes back home, expecting a terrible reception, but instead is enfolded in an embrace. Again, we are left with a good feeling.
But I don’t think many would rate the parable we read today, the workers in the vineyard, as their favourite. There is no strong character for us to associate with and no warm feeling at the end. Instead, more often than not, we feel frustrated with it and cry out ‘It’s not fair!’ It’s not fair – from childhood we seem to have an innate sense of what is right and wrong, a sense of justice, and the way the workers are paid in this parable just isn’t fair.
Let’s remind ourselves of the story again. Day labourers had gathered in the village square hoping for work. It is a situation I have seen in Africa and even in the Arab villages in the North of Israel. Workers hoping someone will come along and hire them for the day, so that there would be enough food to put on the table for their families in the evening. It is a precarious kind of existence. Hoping you look fit enough for the work, hoping you will be lucky.
In the story, the landowner has work in his vineyard and comes and chooses some of the workers. The others were left disappointed, but then later on the landowner returned – maybe there was more work than he had imagined, but he chose more. The rest were left disappointed – and a bit undervalued, as you can imagine. It wasn’t their lucky day; the children would go hungry that evening. But as it grew late, the landowner returned yet again and picked up the rest. Imagine how they would have felt. Overjoyed- maybe they would be paid enough for a loaf of bread. But then comes the rub. Those who have come last and only worked for an hour or two at the most get paid a decent sum – a day’s wages. Word goes down the line, for surely those who have worked from early morning, sweating in the midday sun, will get far more. But no! They got exactly the same. And that isn’t fair. Those who worked far longer should have a greater reward – that is how things are. But the landowner stated, ‘We agreed a wage, and you got that wage. It is my money – what is it to you that I should be generous with my own money’.
The parable is not really about the workers, but about the generosity of God, about the grace of God, which is overwhelming. And sometimes love in the form of grace trumps justice. The mother of the disciples James and John wanted her sons to have a special place in the kingdom, because they had been such loyal followers, but was firmly told that it didn’t work like that. As human beings we define ourselves against other people, comparing ourselves and often begrudging their good fortune – we are in for a shock. We may have been in the church from the year dot, made countless sandwiches and cups of tea, even been elders, but God’s grace is overwhelming and we are going to be surprised at those we find in the Kingdom.
But I think this parable also shows the landowner helping those who were left behind, those who didn’t appear so strong, the undervalued and those with no sense of worth, and the Gospel has a bias to the poor and to the vulnerable. God wants them in the Vineyard, such is the generosity of grace. As the Church, we have to embody that. One way is to support the Food Bank. Another way is to be conscious of so many in our world working for minimal wages, and the importance of ensuring a fair wage and by supporting Fairtrade.
God’s generosity abounds, and we too should show something of God’s generosity and grace.
Hymn 798 – The peace of the earth
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Loving God, you have already today accepted our confession and turned it into forgiving love; you have accepted our praises and turned them into the song of heaven. Now accept our offerings of money and time and turn them into the tender ministry of the body of Christ in your world today.
God of Hope,
When the world is bleak and dim, you pierce the shadows with light.
You help us see new paths and possibilities.
For hope in times of despair, for a way forward when we thought all was lost, we give you thanks.
We pray today for those who feel hopeless; for those who are sick or dying; for those who mourn; and for those weighed down by heavy burdens. We think of those in the West coast of America who have lost homes to wild fires.
May each of us know and share your gift of hope.
God of Peace,
All around us there is conflict: in our world, our communities, our families, even our closest relationships. We thank you for steps toward reconciliation in our lives, our communities, and among peoples of different cultures.
We pray today for places where pain, violence and cruelty seem to have the upper hand. We think of those refugees selling organs from their bodies.
May each of us know and share your gift of peace.
God of Joy,
We give you thanks for moments of delight and occasions of celebration; for happy gatherings, gentle solitude, pleasure given and received; for laugher, friendship, and love.
We remember those who do not taste such joy; those who are lonely or bitter, hurt, or difficult to love.
May each of us know and share your gift of joy.
We pray for our families, those closest to us or and anyone estranged.
We pray for friends and for acquaintances, strangers, for those very different from ourselves, and even for our enemies.
Help us draw our circles of affection wider, seeing our kinship with all people.
May each of us know and share your gift of love.
Hear us now as we pray in silence
Hymn 804 – You shall go out with joy.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and the Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love, wherever they may be, now and forevermore, Amen